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Major University of Maryland donor halts funding over 'unacceptable' regents actions

Karen Levenson, a major donor to the University of Maryland, has halted future funding in the wake of what she said in a letter to the university system’s Board of Regents was the “unacceptable” way it handled the aftermath of football player Jordan McNair’s death.

Levenson, a co-chairwoman of the $1.5 billion fundraising campaign launched this spring by the University of Maryland College Park Foundation, said in a letter obtained by The Baltimore Sun that while she has been “quiet about the extent of my very significant financial commitment” to the school, she now feels she must speak out.

The Board of Regents, in initially retaining football coach DJ Durkin, stepped “outside its authority,” wrote Levenson, who with her husband, Bruce, a former co-owner of the Atlanta Hawks, founded the Do Good Institute. The $75 million initiative seeks to create a culture of philanthropy throughout the College Park campus.

The regents reportedly pressured campus President Wallace Loh to keep Durkin. Loh did so and announced his own plan Tuesday to retire. Then, Wednesday night, Loh fired Durkin, and multiple high-profile figures in the state have called for him to reconsider his resignation.

“Who does the hiring and firing matters,” Levenson, a member of the university’s board of trustees, said in her letter to the regents. “The Do Good Institute is a nationally acclaimed signature initiative at UMD.

“From its inception, the university president has played a lead role in attracting world-class professors, funding and other resources critical to the institute’s extraordinary success,” wrote Levenson, who graduated from Maryland in 1976. “That you could, for instance, take over the decision to hire or fire the dean of the School of Public Policy or the director of the Do Good Institute is unacceptable to me.

“I have directed the halting of future funding to the university,” Levenson said, “until such time as I am convinced the university will be governed in the manner I was lead to believe it would be governed when I made my commitment.”

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